UMaine faculty shared some of their latest aging-related research projects with students and colleagues.
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With a reluctance to spend money, will we be Healthy at Home?
Read it and weep -- the conundrum of home health tech. The large (130 pages) Healthy@Home 2.0 report written by Linda Barrett released on Friday by AARP shows several dimensions of market self-delusion, not the least of which is the perspective of the 940 seniors age 65+. Although they have no doubt seen the world around them go from the happy-go-lucky period of the 2007 survey to a not-so-great world in 2010, what they want is for things to 'stay the same', relying on "a lot of luck", a "good attitude" and "hope". Amazingly, most say they do not need to make any changes to their home within the next 5 years. They're mostly in good shape -- but 27% of them have limits on physical activities, 32% have low vision or hearing impairment, and nearly 1 out of 5 reported their health as fair or poor. Meanwhile fewer than 20% are using any home safety technologies, including an alarm system (!); and fewer than 10% use any personal health and wellness technologies mentioned in the survey. These include medication dispensing (described to responders as an electronic pill box), medication management (communicates information to a provider), or a home-based transmitting self-care device for blood pressure readings or diabetes results.
Will they spend money to preserve independence? Not so much. Mostly married ("if they had their spouse, everything would be okay"), white homeowners by the stats, mostly planning to stay in their homes, while 92% said they would be willing to pay for services to help them stay in their homes, 95% are unwilling to pay more than $50/month for home safety technologies -- like an alarm on the door, or 'personal health and wellness devices' like a PERS device. So PERS market pricing today at under $50/month is confirmed here, although only 9% admitted to having a PERS device -- which makes sense given the distribution of responder ages. Compared to 2007, those surveyed are now more aware of medication dispensing and medication management, and now that they are aware, who knew, willingness to use has declined. I suppose that makes sense for a market that was more mythical in 2007 -- now that seniors are more aware, they (see above) don't think these devices are for them personally -- of course not, they're not 'old'. So get this -- if only their doctor or nurse were willing, 25% now are open to the idea of having have a video consultation which they now imagine is feasible. Feasible yes, likely no.
Computers? No problem - 76% have one in their home -- up from 68%. Amazingly, 44% have broadband, up from 35% in 2007. And yes, communication with family and friends is its most important purpose (see AARP-sponsored Connected Living for Social Aging report, also released on April 29). It seems as though 1 in 5 are skyping and/or playing games with others -- no doubt assisted by broadband and today's improved screen form factors. It's quite interesting that there is a percentage drop in willingness to use the Internet to search for health information (from 84% to 73%) -- which could be a result of TOO much health-spam, er, information out there (> 62,000 health websites), with not enough of it vetted as reliable. Let's remember that the latest survey was completed before the groundswell in tablet and smartphone usage. If the survey were fielded today, there's no doubt that this population of healthy seniors would be delving into video, online chatting and reading books online.
What's it mean? The channel matters more than ever. So if folks who are mostly okay today are willing to pay for services to remain independent, the technology that fills in coverage gaps in that service will be provided, so to speak, by the service providers themselves. From this research, consumers seem to be unlikely to purchase either home safety or wellness tech on their own behalf -- so get to know a geriatric care manager, social services worker, senior housing executive -- that's how folks who need tech, according to Healthy@Home 2.0, will best be reached. Because they're not in need, they're okay. And home alarm companies, get out there and sell alarm systems to all ages. Because without an alarm system in the home that can detect fire, swings in temperature, moisture from leaving a faucet running or other dangers, there's absolutely no point to any of the other technology.